The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog group, reported on Wednesday that Iran has violated the terms of the nuclear deal again, exceeding a limit of 130 metric tons for heavy water. Iran exceeded the same limit last February.
“On 2 November 2016, the director general expressed concerns related to Iran’s stock of heavy water to the vice president of Iran and president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,” said the confidential IAEA report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Iran reportedly told the agency it would begin preparations to ship 5 tons of the excess heavy water out of the country within the next few days.
“It’s important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this, hide what it was doing from the IAEA,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press conference.
The U.N. also emphasized that the limit Iran violated was a “soft limit,” based on a calculation of how much heavy water Iran needs for its reactors, with a stipulation that excess material must be exported to the international market. The United States has purchased excess heavy water from Iran in the past.
Reuters invests several paragraphs in speculating that President-Elect Donald Trump would be unwilling to accept these “soft limit” violations because he was strongly critical of the nuclear deal during the campaign, although it cites no specific statement from him about heavy water or the export provisions of the agreement.
The Wall Street Journal, however, reports that some of Trump’s aides have suggested stricter enforcement of restrictions like the heavy water limit and ballistic missile testing might “force Tehran to pull itself out” of the nuclear deal.
Also, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is quoted castigating Iran: “It’s no surprise that Iran is once again testing the limits of the nuclear deal to see what it can get away with. In January, a President Trump and a Republican Congress will begin a new policy of resolve toward Iran’s ayatollahs.”
“On top of Iran’s illicit development of ballistic missiles, its hostage-taking, and its regional aggression, this latest violation is another sign that Iran has been emboldened by President Obama’s concessions and weakness,” Cotton said of the heavy water violation.